What Air Conditioning Tonnage Means

technicians-evaluate-air-conditioning-systemWe hope that your air conditioning system is working at peak performance, seeing how we’re already deep into summer and dealing with warm to hot temperatures regularly. But sometimes, no matter how well you care for an AC, it can abruptly break down in the middle of the year and make it necessary to replace it.

When you have to arrange for an air conditioning replacement, it’s vital to have professionals do the work. There are many reasons for this. One of them is that it takes special skills to find out the correct tonnage of the new cooling system.

Tonnage: It doesn’t mean how much the AC weighs!

Tonnage is a term that often confuses non-professionals, because it sounds like we’re talking about how much an air conditioner weighs. But tonnage is a bit of HVAC jargon that’s used to express the cooling power of an AC. The higher the tonnage, the more powerful a unit is at cooling a space.

An air conditioner provides cooling for a home by removing heat from the air. This heat is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units). One BTU is the amount of energy necessary to change the temperature of a pound of water one degree. If you see an air conditioner with 12,000 BTUs of cooling power, it means it can remove 12,000 BTUs of heat from a space over an hour. An air conditioner that removes this much heat is a 1 ton AC. Each additional ton equals another 12,000 BTUs per hour. In other words, a 10 ton air conditioning unit removes 120,000 BTUs/hour.

What’s the average tonnage of an air conditioner for a home? The standard range is 1.5–5 tons. Larger systems are usually only found in commercial buildings, which range from 25 to 50 tons.

Finding the right tonnage for your air conditioner

Here’s the important part: tonnage isn’t something to simply guess at when it comes to a home. If you need a new air conditioner, you can’t decide to go with a 5 ton unit just because it’s the most powerful. Tonnage is a balancing act: professionals must use special heat load calculations to find out the ideal amount of cooling necessary for a house. It makes sense that a system that’s underpowered (like a 1.5 ton AC for a home that needs 4 tons) is a serious problem: it won’t cool down the house sufficiently and will run constantly trying to reach its target temperature.

But too much tonnage is also a problem. It means a system that keeps turning itself off too soon, which results in energy-draining short-cycling. It affects comfort as well, since the AC won’t run along enough to properly send cooling to all the rooms and can lead to humidity problems.

If you’re in need of air conditioning replacement in Brevard, NC, make sure you call professionals to handle the job. Our technicians will see that your new air conditioner is sized so the tonnage matches your household’s comfort needs while helping to keep energy bills under control and avoid high humidity troubles—something that can be a serious problem here in North Carolina.

Comfort Central, Inc. serves the air conditioning and heating needs of Western North Carolina.

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